Going online: best & worst idea for someone newly diagnosed with diabetes (or anything for that matter)

When WebMD first came out, I was one of many who turned to the website when I felt the slightest symptom.
A cough: Was it a sign of the common cold, a debilitating throat infection or a warning of some pretty serious disease? Take your pick. Want to scare yourself silly? Start browsing.

We all know how the internet works. It’s a free-for-all for anyone with an idea and a connection. And although we know we should screen what we absorb online, sometimes proper judgement gets thrown to the wayside. This could happen when, let’s say, you are diagnosed with a disease you know nothing about and are told you will have to rely on insulin to survive.

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It makes sense really, a wealth of information right at your fingertips, a range of opinions and seemingly good answers to questions that would take hours to answer in a doctor’s office.

But there’s a great danger out there if you are in an emotionally vulnerable state of mind.

I didn’t realize it myself until now. What I read and who I communicated with (willingly or not) has definitely shaped how I view diabetes.
I was so overwhelmed with it all, and I found reaching out to people on Twitter made me feel less alone. On the flip side, sometimes my feed would seem like a storm of people complaining. I thought of myself 5 years later, a decade…would I be just as angry and resentful of my condition?

I sometimes got private messages from people who told me my doctors were wrong, that what I was doing wasn’t the “right way”. But when I felt so incredibly sad and frustrated, here were a bunch of strangers who understood what I was going through.

Today I’m much more selective of how I screen diabetes information. I look at how I conduct myself online much like how I should in all other aspects of life. I must be careful and selective of who I trust, be surrounded by those who will uplift and inspire me, and spend my time wisely. 

The online world has changed how we communicate but online or not, some things remain the same. There will be positives and negatives (opinions, people), those to be trusted and others with false claims. Do your research and do things that make you feel comfortable.

Tips to tackle the online world with a health challenge: 
  • Filter, filter, filter. Many social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook) allow you to make lists so you can choose what you want to see. I have my lists filtered so if I don’t want to come online and read about diabetes-related news/info that day, I don’t have to come across it.
  • Ask yourself who is the creator and what is the motive? A good exercise is to repeat the information given and ask yourself if you would trust it if a stranger said it to you on the street.
  • Verify reputation. Has this person been mentioned on other sites? Are they featured in reputable publications? Do a quick search and find out more. There are a lot of people who claim to be experts who have little to no educational background on the subject.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. Not sure where to turn to for information online? Ask the experts. E-mail an organization and ask who or what sites they’d recommend for topic x. Find well established and respected online sources and see who they mention in links and go from there. Call for help on Twitter. Word of mouth can often lead you to the best resources.
  • Give an attitude check. Yes, the internet is a place where people like to pour out complaints. I think people are more likely to complain online than in real life about certain issues, but the internet is also home to tons of inspirational stories. There are tons of sites dedicated to people who may have similar health challenges who are defying the odds and living each day to the fullest. What kind of outlook do you want to have on life? That’s what you should be searching and bookmarking.

Safe surfing,

J

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